FAQ About Patient Care

What is chiropractic?

Chiropractic is one of the largest primary contact health care professions in Canada, with over 7,000 practicing chiropractors treating approximately four and a half million Canadians annually with drug free, non-invasive, hands-on care. Chiropractors assess disorders related to the spine, nervous system, and joints of the extremities and provide a diagnosis and treatment of these disorders. The primary goal of chiropractic manipulation, also referred to as adjustment, is to treat areas of decreased movements in the joints which can create a response in surrounding tissues (ligaments, muscles and nerves) in order to provide relief of pain and improvement in function.

Manipulation or adjustment is a highly controlled procedure, which rarely causes discomfort. A chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient. Many people will notice an improvement in their symptoms immediately after a treatment. To help patients achieve improved health, the chiropractor can also design a program that includes exercise and nutritional counselling.

What conditions can chiropractors treat?

Chiropractors treat a wide variety of conditions affecting the muscles and joints in the body. Chiropractic is an effective and safe form of treatment for back, neck, joint pain, headaches and decreased range of motion. Many of these conditions, commonly treated with pain medications, can also be treated effectively with chiropractic therapy and exercise.

People of all ages and from all walks of life can benefit from chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors also provide valuable information about maintaining optimum health and a healthy spine, and provide tips to help people reduce the risk of work and sport related injuries. No referral is required from a medical doctor, as chiropractors are primary contact health care practitioners.

Chiropractic education, regulations and the internship program

Chiropractors are primary contact health care professionals who are recognized by statute in all Canadian provinces and American states. The Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College (CMCC) is a world leader in chiropractic education and research.

The Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) program has an intensive four year curriculum of academic and clinical education. The minimum requirement for admission to the program is three years of undergraduate study at a recognised university. The vast majority of those accepted in recent years, however, have achieved an undergraduate degree and some have achieved a graduate degree. During the fourth year of the program, students obtain their clinical experience as interns at one of CMCC’s several teaching clinics, which are located throughout the greater Toronto area.

When you attend our clinic, you will be assessed by one of CMCC’s clinical faculty and a chiropractic intern. Your intern will conduct a comprehensive health history and detailed examination, provide a diagnosis and recommend a plan of care.

What to expect on your first visit?

Your chiropractor may be treating your back, muscle or joint pain, but he or she needs to understand how your body functions as a whole. In particular he or she will focus on your spine, joints, muscles, and nervous system. Your chiropractor needs a complete picture of your health history and overall current health in order to provide the best possible treatment for you.

Set aside at least 60 minutes for your first visit to the chiropractor. Future visits typically last 30 minutes or less, and this may vary from chiropractor to chiropractor, and is affected by the type of treatment you require. Here’s what you might expect.

Your chiropractor may ask about the following:

  • personal and family medical history
  • major illnesses
  • surgeries
  • prescription or over the counter medications
  • a description of your present condition
  • steps you have taken to manage your condition
  • diet and exercise routine, your sleeping habits, daily activities, work routine, stress level, and home life
  • herbal remedies and other supplements
  • TIP: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for your visit to the chiropractor!

Your chiropractor may ask you to change into a gown to:

  • check your blood pressure, pulse, and breathing
  • test your reflexes, strength, and sensations
  • assess your posture
  • x-ray your spine
  • analyze your movement - he/she will observe how you walk, turn, bend or lift things, as well as how your body moves in the affected area
  • evaluation of how well your spine moves, identifying restrictions and areas of improper motion

TIP: Bring a copy of any X-rays or radiology reports or other imaging.

These assessments give your chiropractor a better picture of your complete health. He or she will make a diagnosis, prescribe a course of treatment, and once the matter of informed consent has been discussed, treatment may begin. If your chiropractor diagnoses a condition more appropriately treated by another health care professional, he or she will make a referral. Your treatment from the chiropractor, regardless of the stage of care, will often include exercise, diet, and other healthy living suggestions.


  • Relief care is provided for relief of immediate pain, restricted mobility, and discomfort. Depending on the diagnosis, your age, physical condition, how long you have had the current complaint, and previous injuries, a few or several visits over a relatively short period of time, may be necessary.
  • Once the severity of your condition has decreased through relief care, corrective care helps to restore normal function to your spine, muscles, supporting tissues, and the nerves affected by them.
  • Supportive or maintenance care helps you maintain and preserve the benefits you’ve achieved from relief and corrective care. Chiropractors are also trained to detect conditions in their early stages, often before you feel pain or reduced mobility. Continuing to work with your chiropractor and having periodic spinal check-ups and treatments, if needed, will keep your spine as healthy as possible. Your chiropractor will work with you to find a maintenance schedule that suits your condition, health care goals, and lifestyle.

How often do I need to see a chiropractor?

Your chiropractor will discuss a schedule of care, which will depend on your specific circumstances. For some people chiropractic treatment is like a regular tune-up, to help deal with the daily wear and tear of life. For others, it’s simply an effective treatment when pain or discomfort strikes.

Take the time to discuss with your chiropractor the treatment plan that’s best for you.

Is chiropractic covered under OHIP?

Your extended health plan may cover chiropractic care partially or completely.

How does chiropractic care work?

Chiropractic helps to remove postural imbalances and structural misalignments that can accumulate in our bodies over time. Our spines change and develop just like our teeth, eyes and heart. Left unchecked for a long time, these changes may lead to pain, stiffness or other more serious problems.

The nervous system is the key part of the body. It is the communications system between your brain and all of your body’s muscles, organs and tissues. For your body to remain healthy, your nervous system must function well. For your nervous system to function well, it must be free of interference. The spine is the most common site of nervous interference because nerves travel from spinal cord opening on either side of the spine to get to all your cells and organs.

Is chiropractic effective?

Chiropractic care is safe and effective. Scientific evidence providing that chiropractic care works is overwhelming. Over the past 20 years, many independent research studies have shown again and again that chiropractic care is safe and effective for treating low back, neck and joint pain, headaches, and decreased range of motions.

Why should I see a chiropractor?

Many people see a Doctor of Chiropractic for back, neck and joint pain, while others seek relief from the discomfort caused by headaches, high blood pressure, asthma or other conditions. Other finds that regular visits to their chiropractor keep them in peak condition.

Does chiropractic treatment require referral from an MD?
No. A patient does not have to be referred. Chiropractors are legislated as primary contact health care professionals in every province in Canada. This means that patients can consult them directly. Similarly, chiropractors frequently refer to medical doctors when necessary.

How is chiropractic adjustment performed?
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a manual procedure that utilizes the highly refined skills developed during four intensive years of chiropractic education. The chiropractor typically uses his/her hands to manipulate the joints of the body, particularly the spine, in order to reduce pain, and restore or enhance joint function. Chiropractic manipulation is a highly controlled procedure that rarely causes discomfort. The chiropractor adapts the procedure to meet the specific needs of each patient. Patients often note positive changes in their symptoms immediately following treatment.

Can chiropractic treatment cure colds, earaches and other ailments?
Chiropractic care cannot "cure" these conditions, but there is some evidence to indicate that adjustment may have a beneficial effect on a variety of conditions. Adjustment may alleviate some of the secondary, or referred pain, arising from the response of the musculoskeletal structures to the primary cause. For example, research conducted in Denmark resulted in chiropractic treatment being recommended for the relief of infantile colic. Similarly, a recent U.S. study concluded that the application of manipulative techniques in children with recurring ear infections can prevent or decrease surgical intervention or antibiotic overuse.

Is chiropractic adjustment a safe procedure?
Chiropractic adjustment or manipulation is a drug-free, non-invasive approach to common musculoskeletal conditions such as headache, and neck and back pain. As such, it is a low risk therapy. Complications arising from adjustment are rare.

Is chiropractic treatment appropriate for children?
Yes, children may benefit from chiropractic care. Children are very physically active and experience many types of falls and blows from activities of daily living as well as from participating in sports. Injuries such as these may cause many symptoms including back and neck pain, stiffness, soreness or discomfort. Chiropractic care is always adapted to the individual patient. It is a highly skilled treatment, and in the case of children, very gentle. While there is some clinical evidence that musculoskeletal treatment of infants may have positive effects, well-controlled studies are required to verify the benefits that are seen in clinical practice.

Does chiropractic treatment require X-rays?
X-rays can play an important role in diagnosis and are taken when a need has been determined after taking a patient case history and conducting a physical examination. Chiropractors receive 360 hours of education in diagnostic imaging covering a full range of topics from protection to X-ray interpretation and diagnosis. Governments in every province have recognized the training and competence of chiropractors to take and interpret X-rays and have granted them this right.

Can chiropractic treatment provide a preventive function?
Clinical experience suggests that individuals with chronic conditions such as degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) or recurrent neck pain, back pain or headaches may experience less frequent and less severe symptoms when under regular chiropractic care. This also applies to individuals in highly stressful situations and those who experience repetitive physical and postural strain from their daily activities. Whether ongoing chiropractic treatment can prevent back pain from occurring in the first place, or prevent a previous condition from re-occurring, requires further study.

Why is there a popping sound when a joint is adjusted?
Adjustment of a joint may result in release of a gas bubble between the joints that makes a popping sound – it’s exactly the same as when you "crack" your knuckles. It is not painful. It is caused by the change of pressure within the joint resulting in gas bubbles being released.

Why would neck adjustment have an effect on anything other than neck pain?
Pain or discomfort in one area of the body may be linked functionally to discomfort arising from another area. Consequently, addressing dysfunction in one part of the body may relieve symptoms in another part. If you look at a model of the spine, you can see that the spine is an interconnected structure. Adjustment at various points along the structure may be needed to help reduce biomechanical stresses on other parts of the spine and to relieve discomfort.